National grain, feed association calls for challenge to freight rail rates

Surface Transportation Board should undertake more in-depth review of standards

The National Grain and Feed Association has called on the federal Surface Transportation Board to improve its rules and policies to improve the ability of agricultural shippers to challenge unreasonable rail freight rates.  

In a statement submitted to the agency, the association commended the board for proposing changes and soliciting public comments on the current methods available to shippers to challenge unreasonable rates. But the association also called for the board to undertake a more comprehensive, in-depth review of its simplified standards for rail rate regulation, with a goal of proposing further and more significant modifications. The association said if the Surface Transportation Board finds that its current methods for challenging unreasonable freight rates are inadequate, the agency should ask Congress for additional statutory authority “designed to provide genuinely simplified and expedited standards for resolving rail rate disputes.”

In its statement, the National Grain and Feed Association also commented on the following things:

  • It urged the board to increase to at least $3 million the amount that could recovered over a five-year period using the most streamlined mechanism currently available for challenging freight rail rates — known as the three-benchmark method. Under this method, the board proposed to increase the recovery limit to $2 million, up from the current $1 million.  
  • It supported the board’s proposal to eliminate the current $5 million limit that shippers potentially can recover using a second “simplified” agency mechanism for challenging unreasonable rail rates. But it urged the agency to delete a concurrent proposal that would undermine use of this method for challenging rates by imposing a new burden that would require shippers to calculate the full replacement cost of rail system facilities used to serve the shipper filing the rate complaint.